VETERAN L.A.-BASED JAZZ SONGSTRESS CHERYL BARNES MAKES IT EXCITING TO ‘LISTEN TO THIS,’ HER ECLECTIC NEW INDIE ALBUM PRODUCED BY RENOWNED R&B PRODUCER AND MUSICAL DIRECTOR RAHN COLEMAN (ARETHA FRANKLIN, FREDA PAYNE, TINA TURNER)
After Performing Clubs and Concert Halls Throughout the World, Barnes – Who Also Sang At the Louisiana Superdome Before a New Orleans Saints Game – Is Scoring Big On The Smooth Jazz Charts with “Come With Me” and At Triple AAA Radio with Her Cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Come In From The Cold”
A rapidly emerging, fresh and powerful voice on the contemporary jazz scene, Cheryl Barnes (www.cheryldbarnes.com) has only one request to make when people get a hold of her new multi-faceted independent full-length album: Listen to This.
Jazz and Triple AAA fans across the country are listening and loving it. Radio programmers in these formats are already over the moon over the Los Angeles based, classically trained jazz singer’s vibe. Though Barnes has never considered herself a smooth jazz performer, her mystical soul-jazz ballad “Come With Me,” whose intro features her dynamic scatting ability, is already receiving spins on over 30 terrestrial and internet stations in that format.
She recently released a video for the track on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJmHZ2sdgDc&feature=youtu.be) featuring her singing in many of Los Angeles’ most iconic and sunny locations; the clip was directed by award winning videographer David West, who has worked with the National Geographic Channel and also shot a documentary on Meat Loaf in 2010. It is being featured on SmoothJazz.com Global Radio and SmoothTravel Facebook pages, in addition to Twitter feeds.
Barnes’ multi-format appeal has also earned her significant Triple AAA airplay for her heartfelt, jazzy rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Come In From The Cold.” Other Triple AAA focal tracks represent the vast repertoire she brings to the 12-track collection: the haunting “When I’m Laid In Earth” (from Henry Purcell’s 17th Century opera “Dido and Aeneas”) and two songs co-penned by her longtime friend, jazz singer/songwriter Mark Winkler, the swinging, sassy “Like Jazz” and “Afternoon in Harlem,” the perfect showcase for Barnes’ intuitive storytelling magic.
Incredibly, over 25 non-jazz stations throughout Canada and the U.S. are playing tracks from Listen To This, including the tastemaker KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif. Other standout tracks include the high energy big band romp “Listen To This,” composed by the singer’s husband, Phil Cabasso, whose passionate piano is featured throughout the collection; and the moody and plaintive “Why Did I Choose You,” featuring keyboardist John Hammond.
Though Barnes has been a staple of the Los Angeles club scene and a renowned global performer for many years, she attributes her newfound confidence as a recording artist to the opportunity to work on Listen To This with award winning pop/R&B producer, musical director and, arranger, orchestrator, composer, vocal coach and pianist Rahn Coleman.
Coleman knows budding genius when he hears it, having worked with some of the most iconic voices of all time, including Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Barry White, Ray Charles, Freda Payne, Patti Labelle, Marvin Gaye and Tom Jones. The producer has also been a multi-faceted behind the scenes force on popular musicals like “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “The Wiz,” “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” and “Baby It’s You.”
“I know the strength of my voice is the direct result of some of the coaching Rahn gave me while we worked on the CD,” says Barnes, a native of Cleveland, Ohio who spent some of her formative years in Great Falls, Montana, where she first sang with a jazz group on a local Air Force Base.
“He helped me realize that I could increase my vocal power without hurting my voice. Rahn helped me understand the difference between being a live performer and a recording artist, about certain techniques I could use to achieve a certain feeling. It all came down to my willingness to expose myself emotionally. I’ve loved singing live and will always continue to do that, but with Listen To This, I really want people to hear my voice and my spirit in a different way and deliver to listeners something that is both calming and healing yet completely joyous.
“Music is a universal medium and above all, I wanted the songs and my interpretations of them to be accessible so that people could interpret them wherever they may land in their own lives to create a beautiful experience,” she adds. “I want these selections to have meaning to them, to have an emotional impact, to make them laugh or cry, or both at the same time!”
Barnes’ interpretations of this wide array of material aren’t the only things that demand a deep listen. The exciting musical history she brings to the official launch of her recording career is equally compelling.
While headlining at the Fairmont Hotel in New Orleans, she was invited to sing at a pregame concert at the Louisiana Superdome before a Saints-Bills football game. She’s shared the stage with Quincy Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Lou Rawls, J.J. Johnson and Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr., who managed Barnes when she first moved to Los Angeles from Denver, where she lived and performed regularly as a singer, dancer and actor after graduating from the University of Denver. While living in Denver, she also performed with symphony orchestras in Colorado, Wisconsin and Florida, and hosted the variety show “The Other Side” with longtime radio personality Bubba Jackson.”
In conjunction with the release of Listen to This, Barnes did an album release party at the popular new club Rockwell Table & Stage, and she will be performing as part of a benefit for the adoption agency Petmania with Mark Winkler on July 13 at Catalina Bar & Grill, as well as headlining with Johnny Britt at the Point Hueneme Beach Fest in Ventura County August 16. These gigs extend her longtime presence on the Southern California jazz club scene – years that include hundreds of shows at famed hotspots (some still active, many long gone) like The Baked Potato, The Jazz Bakery, The Parisian Room and Memory Lane.
The current critical accolades Barnes is receiving join the many she has amassed as a live performer. The late iconic Los Angeles Times jazz critic Leonard Feather once wrote: “Barnes’ range leapt upward in unpredictable octave jumps to a pure register.” Rickey Minor, longtime Musical Director for “American Idol” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” has said, “Cheryl’s voice is sultry and full of soul…you’ll be instantly transported to a place of warmth and serenity.” Legendary jazz and blues singer Barbara Morrison adds, “I don’t think there is a more immaculate professional singer in the jazz world today than Cheryl Barnes. She keeps it clean and swings to the point of no return.” And her old friend Winkler says, “Cheryl Barnes is a songwriter’s dream. Each song becomes an emotional story that touches, moves or just plain makes you smile.”
Though she has recorded two full length CDs in the past, Barnes insists that Live at the Baked Potato and Just Singing were created more as “calling cards” for such events as the International Association of Jazz Educators (IAJE) than for commercial release. When she ran into Coleman at a family event of a mutual friend, she told him she had been thinking of recording an official CD.
“Phil and I joined Rahn for lunch and we told him we were going to do a live recording, which made sense considering that I’ve spent my entire singing career onstage,” Barnes says. “He wondered why we would do that and pretty soon we were talking about doing a bona fide studio album. Rahn is world renowned for his ability to elicit the best performances from the artists he works with, particularly vocalists. We took our time to make sure that every element was just right, from the mix of material to the best musicians and arrangements.
“I’m very encouraged by the response from radio, listeners, my fans and international distributors,” she says, and making the album was a lot of fun. There was a real excitement in the uncertainty of how everything would come together, and I couldn’t be happier with how the pieces fell into place to create these great results. I was able to be spontaneous and honest in a way I never could before – and now I am truly dedicated to developing my career as an artist for the long haul.”